Monday, April 25, 2011

So Long Dear Friend

I have written 3 blogs about our trip to Disney, it was a wonderful trip. However, the first evening that we were there I received word that the mother of my dear friends, Lisa & Kristina had passed away after a heroic battle with leukemia. Her funeral was two days before we got home so I missed saying goodbye to her. I would like to just tell you a little bit about her and what an impression she had on my life.

When Lisa and I opened up our store 2 and half years ago I really didn't know her mom, Inger very well. What I did know was that she was a dear woman that was always willing to help, she was the type of person that would give you the shirt off her back even if she didn't know you very well. As the months went by she would often swing by the store and would help us however we needed it. During those times and the numerous birthday parties I got to know Inger very well. She was such a good time to be around. My favorite moment I spent with Inger was washing the windows on a sunny spring afternoon. She was really good at washing windows! LOL, I don't think our windows will ever be that clean again! We are a little baffled by how she got them that clean! We were chatting about music, this is when I found out that Inger loved the Beatles. Her older brother, to whom she was very close to, had introduced her to the Fab 5 and she was hooked to that day. She spoke of her brother with such a tenderness, she told me a lot about him that day and ended it with how he had passed away. That was it, the end of the story, no further explanation of how he died, when, nothing, just the end. So Inger. We had a moment that day, and I felt very close to her, we had covered all bases. We had discussed family, music, a little politics and death. We had crossed a threshold, we now knew a few intimate details of one anothers lives, and it was awesome.

In July I wrote a blog entitled “Reflection”. This was in response to Inger being diagnosed with leukemia. It rocked all of our worlds, especially of course her daughters lives. Friends, I have seen a lot of things in my life. I have witnessed people having to deal with all sorts of life changing situations. I have seen some people rise to the occasion and do the right thing, I have seen some run and hide and others I have seen turn their backs and ignore the situation at hand completely. These women are incredible. Not for one moment did these girls leave their mother alone. Someone was with her at all times from July through February, 24 hours a day 7 days a week. In every hospital room, during every holiday, birthday and celebration they were by her side. They made me want to be a better daughter and just a better human being in general. They were amazing in their care and love for their mother. Then I realized of course this is the way they would react, look at their teacher.

Here is what I learned most from Inger.

  • Love your family, even when they drive you crazy.
  • Be true to yourself.
  • Don't let the small stuff, or small minded people bother you.
  • Homemade Meatballs work for any get together.
  • Life is short, be happy.
  • Be kind.
  • Fight hard for the things worth fighting for.
  • Support those you love
  • Help people who need help, even if they don't know that they need it.
  • Always do the right thing, always.

Goodbye my friend, rest assured you touched my life and you helped me look at life a little differently, in a more positive light. I am a better person for knowing you, I will miss you every day and especially every time I eat a meatball.

Saving Money At Walt Disney World

I know it sounds like an oxymoron to save money at Walt Disney world but it is possible. We managed to save a ton just from doing 2 things differently from the norm. What I encourage everyone to do is to plan your entire trip with all the bells and whistles. Plan everything you want to do, exactly where you want to stay, how long you want to stay as if money is not a factor. Then, prioritize that list. What must you do to ensure that you have a magical experience? After that start trimming down your list, finding alternatives to major expenses may just ensure that you are able to do everything you want to do. This process takes a lot of time and a lot of conversations. Be prepared and always enter these conversations with an open mind. Arguing about this and that doesn't help and nothing should be argued about in this stage! Hopefully. I can help and illustrate clearly what we did to save some money on our trip.

For our family, including my mom it would have been between $9 & 11,000 to stay on site. We have a very large family and at Walt Disney world it does not matter if you are 90 or 3 months old you count! So we opted to stay off site. We found a house 15 minutes from the Magic Kingdom. It was a 6 bedroom, 2 master suite, full kitchen, pool and hot tub lap of luxury oasis! It was $1000 for the entire week. Now do you see what I mean by finding alternatives to major expenses? Of course that adds some new complications and expenses. How do you get to the parks if you fly?

We considered renting a car but a rental car would have cost just as much for us (huge family) as it would have been to for us to fly our entire family down. We were considering to drive the 17 hours. Before you actually go though with the drive make sure you factor in the cost of gas and hotel stays. Also think of the ride home. For us, I would have been in our local mental institution after attempting to drive that far with 8 people in our 8 passenger car...SO what is the solution? The auto train. In the end it did cost as much as flying, however, we had our car and a very relaxing ride down. For our family it was around $1500 ( this included our car) as opposed to the $3000 it would have been to fly and rent a car. The only downside to the auto train for me was that I did not sleep well. So it made for a very long first day for me

Eating at the parks is expensive hands down. For our family to eat it was about $250 for dinner. This was one thing we splurged on. Food is very important to us and we like to eat well so that was one of things we could do because we had saved money in other places. Lunch was about $70. Now a way to save even more is to eat at the house. Seriously, it would potentially save you well over a thousand dollars! Make lunches in the morning and bring them to the parks with you. They make a variety of insulated picnic totes these days that are just fabulous. Go home in the late afternoon, have a swim a rest and some dinner. Keeping it simple, pasta and sauce, no muss no fuss! Go back to the parks and enjoy a snack and some fireworks.

Park passes are one thing you just can't get around. Here is a little tip though. If you buy a year long park pass, it is not that much more, you could potentially go to Walt Disney World 2 times in a year and pay for passes one time! The passes begin the year on the day your purchase them so if you purchase your pass on March 1, 2011 you are able to return on February 1, 2012 and pay nothing for passes. That saves you a bunch of money, it is almost like 2 family vacations with one major expense paid for!

In the end what matters most is that your family has a wonderful time, with as little stress as possible falling on the parents, remember its your vacation too. I am a planner, to me its one of the best part of the trip. Why? Well, as you watch all of your planning unfurl before your very eyes and you see the joy in the faces of your family, you just smile realizing that you have done something really good. These memories for your kids are amazing but I think for you as the parent its even more then that. You are able to provide the trip of a life time and memories that they will take with them for the rest of their lives and even pass on to your grandchildren. That is monumental as a parent. I hope this helps you in your decision making process and in planning your trip. I have listed some links below to help you on your way. We loved our trip and we cannot wait to go back! Much Love and Safe Travels!

Where we rented our home:

Amtrak Auto Train

Picnic Time Insulated Totes